Snow days used to be some of the good old days

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By Steve Doyle

When did snow days change from magical gifts from Mother Nature to pains in our eternal backsides?

I think it was somewhere between youth and adulthood, to be sure, but when exactly did that change occur?

I’ve been away a long time, you know, and though we had hurricane days in Florida, those didn’t have the same charm that snow days brought.

I mean, kids stayed home from school, but they also spent the time removing tree limbs, living without power and maybe cleaning up a flooded mess. Or worse. It wasn’t fun at all.

The snow days of our youth were a time of joy, often a break from the drudgery of school right when you most needed it, between Christmas and spring breaks (or, in my days, KEA and State Tournament).

Now the mere guess that school will be out because of snow sends a home into chaos. What, the kids are staying at home? Daycare is closed? What in the world are we going to do? Who is going to take care of these kids?

This is probably a byproduct of the two-income household or, at the very least, the less-agricultural economic structure of Shelby County. But it sadly is a very real problem.

In snow days of old, the kids stayed home, and there was usually somebody around – a relative or neighbor – to keep an eye on them. You didn’t worry that some awful person would break in and kidnap them.

But now you do, and though kids probably celebrate when snow days occur, the rest of us have a hard time remembering those good feelings and are more concerned about the disruptions to our professional and personal agendas.

If I close my eyes and think real hard, though, I can recall how my heart would leap when I heard my Mom turn on that old Philco in the kitchen, tuned to WHAS that morning instead of WAKY, and those magic words  were spoken: “Shelby County schools are closed today.”

Unlike the concept of the bus about to arrive, that news flash immediately would catapult you out of bed for a day of fun. Cabin fever was never a problem, even when we once got a 2-week break just after Christmas.

Yes, we sometimes used those days to play in the snow, building a snowman, sledding down the pond dam next to our house, making snow cream and using food coloring to pretend it was strawberry or lime. We occasionally got together with friends and built a bonfire.

But in my view the most memorable of the snow days always occurred indoors.

I was blessed to live next door to my grandmother, and Mammaw’s was always open on snow days. It was warm, and there was always something good to eat, but the best thing about it was that Mammaw loved to play games.

Multiday and all-day sessions of Monopoly, Sorry, Password and several other worn-out boxes of Milton Bradley’s finest were always under way.

And we played hard. She got no break from my brothers, cousins and me. We played to win, and she usually let us, while slickly teaching us a thing or two about sportsmanship and other important subjects.

When I got a little older, though, the  games moved from her house to the huge dairy barn next door, where I was blessed to have a half-court basketball layout in the hayloft.

This made me a very popular kid. There was never too much snow or too cold a temperature for a few guys from Simpsonville and surrounding farms to find their way to the barn for all-day play.

The place was drafty and cold, as you can imagine, with only the heat from a couple dozen cows down below to warm us up. But we would play in a few sweatshirts and even gloves until the temperature no longer mattered and sweat flowed freely.

And to heck with the streak of snow that sometimes leaked through the external hay door beneath the basket, as long as the ball would bounce, we would play.

Mammaw is in Heaven now, no doubt teaching others about Monopoly and life, and the barn was torn down years ago when the dairy left in favor of horses.

But when I hear that schools are out for snow days, my heart always gives a little leap for those magical times of my youth.

And I wish so much that families today could stop and enjoy them as much as I did.